Growing up (many moons ago), we had a gigantic, orange, slightly moldy tent that had a little duct tape on it. What type of tent was this, you say?
Thinking back, I believe it was some form of a cabin tent. It weighed a zillion pounds, had tent poles the size of fence posts, and was a joy to put up.
Thank goodness we have come a long way, and now there are numerous types of tents to fit anyone’s camping needs. What type of tent to have is probably the most essential purchase for your camping adventures,
The type of tent that is right for you depends on many factors. For example, how many campers are in your party, what is the weather where you are camping, what style of camping are you doing?
We will go over all the kinds of tents, size, weight, material, functionality, etc. We have placed the tents in categories of the type of camper who would benefit best.
Tents for Families and Larger Groups
These tents are more likely to be bigger, less portable, roomier, and possibly heavier, but usually less expensive. These tents are appropriate for casual, weekend family trips or outings with lots of friends.
These tents are also best for camping out of your vehicle (my kind of people), so not backpackers or hardcore Bear Grylls campers.
A dome tent is really easy to set up, and this can be appealing for families. They come with 2 poles that cross over each other at the top of the tent. The poles go into pockets or hooks at the corners of the tent.
The poles give the tent its shape; the floor is usually rectangular in shape. You don’t need any guy lines or stakes to set up this tent. They are very lightweight and can easily be moved.
Many times, dome tents will come with a rainfly, and they also tend to have good ventilation. The shape of these tents keeps the rain from pooling on the top.
They can be thin material, though, and condensation may be an issue. This is where a rainfly is a good addition. Dome tents work best in spring, summer, and fall weather.
Dome tents can also be quite affordable, making them suitable for families on a budget or friends just wanting to camp for the weekend.
Easy to put up
Durable for wind and rain
Not great for cold winter weather
An instant tent is actually any tent that can be set up in literally a couple of minutes. Instant tents and pop-up tents are not exactly the same.
Pop-up tents are a “type” of an instant tent. Pop-up tents are incredibly lightweight and literally pop open when taken out of the bag, just like your sunshade for your car.
Instant tents have pre-attached poles and are put up also very quickly. They require being laid out flat, and then someone pushes up in the center of the tent. This opens up the frame in minutes.
These types of tents are usually heavy due to all the attached poles. They also will need to be staked down and may need guy lines.
Instant tents may also come with a rainfly. These tents do pretty well in all types of weather, as they are heavy-duty and large.
Many times, instant tents are shaped like cabin tents and are very roomy. They are great for families because the setup is quick and easy.
Roomy with good headroom
Multi-room tents are…you guessed it; tents with multiple rooms. They are big tents that have internal room dividers that separate them from the other rooms. They usually have 3-4 rooms, and some even have a central room to serve as a family room.
Multi-room tents are appealing to families for their capacity and privacy. But these tents can be heavy, bulky, and difficult to set up. They are made of lightweight materials like polyester or nylon.
Hopefully, your big family brings all of their patience and eagerness to help. There are several poles to set these tents up; you will need to follow the directions closely.
These tents do not fare well in windy weather due to their size, but you are used to big things if you have a big family. These tents are not good in super cold, rainy, or windy weather.
Great for families with kids
Not suitable for windy weather
Can be difficult to set up
Cabin tents are some of the best tents for headroom and living space. They come with a set of poles that form the shape of a square or rectangular cabin.
Cabin tents allow you to fully stand upright, which is really nice. If you plan on spending much time in your tent, it is great to stand up while inside.
These tents can be made of polyester material or nylon. Canvas cabin tents are large and heavy but are also great for all seasons. A canvas cabin tent can also accommodate a stove, making them excellent for extended or winter camping.
Cabin tents tend to be heavy, bulky, and challenging to put up. They also require stakes and several guy lines to secure them.
Lots of headroom
Great for families with kids
Can be a challenge to set up wth one or two people
Not all weather, unless canvas
Tunnel tents are not your average family tent. They are tents shaped like a giant caterpillar (that’s how they look to me). They are held up by a series of poles that arch over the tent in a parallel pattern, creating the tunnel shape.
These tents are big and roomy for families and have room dividers. They frequently have a room in the middle for storage.
These tents are not freestanding and require several guy lines to keep them upright and stable. They are a challenge to set up and can sag in places if not correctly set up. They are made of lightweight polyester or nylon material.
Might sag and allow rain to pool
Not good in wet, windy weather
Pod-style tents at first glance look similar to dome tents, but they differ in that pod-style tents have interconnecting tunnels.
The set-up is easy because all the poles are the same size, the pods are circular in shape. Then they have a section that pops out and is the tunnel portion that connects one pod to another, and so on.
Pod-style tents are lightweight and can be set up in a reasonable amount of time with a few helpers. In addition, they have tons of space, lots of headroom, and privacy.
Privacy due to the tunnel system
Fairly easy set-up
Lots of headroom
Not great in frigid weather
Tents for Solo Campers and Backpackers
Tents for solo campers and backpackers must be lightweight and packed down small. They also need to be a quick set-up and be durable in all kinds of weather.
A good quality backpacker’s tent should be made with material that can handle rain and ventilate well for summer camping. These tents can be a bit pricey but are worth it if you are a hardcore nutball camper. But, I will admit, these are not my people.
Backpacking tents are incredibly lightweight, usually only weighing 3-5 pounds. As a result, they pack down extremely small and take almost no time to set up.
They are very small, sometimes so small you just crawl into them, lay down, crawl out. They are designed with the essentials only to decrease weight.
An actual backpacking tent is made with superior quality to be both lightweight and withstand the elements. They have excellent ventilation and do well in all types of weather.
Portable and pack small
Pop-up tents are a type of instant tent, meaning they are set up in minutes. Pop-up tents are made of extremely lightweight material and literally pop open when taken out of the bag.
Think of your car shade, how it pops open once you take it out of the bag. This is how an actual pop-up tent works. They are freestanding and do not require stakes or guy lines.
Pop-up tents are excellent for fair-weather campers and camping in mild weather. However, they tend to not be very durable or handle bad weather.
Almost no set-up
Packs down very small
Not as durable as other tents
Only suitable for mild weather
Can be cheaply made
Bivy tents are incredibly lightweight, usually weighing 1 pound and packed very small. Therefore, they are ideal for hardcore backpackers who want as little weight to carry as possible.
Bivy tents are shaped like a wedge, with one end having a bit more headroom. They are pretty small and maybe claustrophobic for some, as they are about the size of a coffin.
They are designed for one person to sleep and nothing much else. However, they are excellent in all types of weather and keep campers warmer than other tents.
A good quality bivy tent may be a bit pricey, but it is well worth it if you are a serious backpacker.
Weigh about 1 pound
Extremely lightweight and pack small
Stays warm inside
Can be claustrophobic
Not much space for storage
Pyramid tents are very simple and resemble a teepee. They consist of a center pole, the tent is then draped over the pole, and several guy lines and stakes are used to pull the tent taut into a pyramid shape.
These tents don’t require any poles, so they are very lightweight and quick to put up. However, the guy lines need to be anchored very well, or the tent will sag, and rain can pool.
They also do not come with a groundsheet, so you will need a tarp if you don’t want to sleep directly on the ground.
Quick set up
Packs down small
Very little headroom
A frame/ Ridge-style tent
When asked to quickly draw a tent, an A-frame tent is most likely what you’ll draw. An A-frame or ridge-style tent is shaped like a letter A, with 1 horizontal pole and 2 vertical poles supporting the tent material.
Several guy lines and stakes are needed to keep this tent upright. These tents are quite stable but are best for 2 campers or a solo camper. Ventilation in these tents can be poor if the door panels are not open.
Back in the day, these tents were made of canvas and were very heavy and bulky. The modern version of these is made with lightweight poles and material.
Sturdy when set-up correctly
Must be put up very well, or they can be unstable
Only suitable for 1 or 2 campers
Tents for Adventure Seekers
These types of tents are unique for specific purposes. They are for campers seeking a different way of camping. These would be the tents on a fashion show catwalk, on the cutting edge of fashion, but not worn by the average human.
That being said, they are super cool and are enjoyed by adventurous campers all over.
These modern-style tents basically replace the traditional poles with inflatable tubes that serve as the poles.
They are not as lightweight as you’d think. Even though they lack poles, the massive amount of material is heavy. You also will need a pump unless you are Michael Phelps and have lungs that go forever.
The setup is relatively easy though, you just need to inflate it. The ventilation can be poor with some inflatable tents. I would avoid any warm-weather camping. They do well with wind and rain, though.
Quick, easy setup
Some have poor ventilation
Need a pump (unless Michael Phelps is camping with you)
If a NASA engineer and a tree-hugging camper combined forces, the result would be a geodesic tent. These kinds of tents resemble a dome tent shape, but they have several more poles.
The added poles criss-cross all around the tent, creating a more durable structure than a traditional dome tent. They are incredibly stable and can withstand high winds and winter weather.
Geodesic tents are heavy due to the added poles and also take some time to set up. Most commonly, they sleep 4 people and may take all 4 of you to set it up. However, these tents are excellent for extended winter camping, so that is a huge bonus.
They are made with quality materials and are new and modern. Although unfortunately, this is reflected in the price, they don’t come cheap.
Excellent in high winds and winter camping
Quality design and construction
Heavy and large to pack
Difficult to set-up
Suspended (Hammock) tent
Suspended tents are definitely for the camper thinking outside the box. These tents are attached to 3-4 large trees in a forested area and suspended off the ground.
Suspended tents are perfect for areas with wet, muddy, swampy, uneven ground. These are the kinds of locations for a super outdoorsy camper.
They are extremely lightweight, don’t have any poles, and pack down super small. In addition, these tents typically have a cover, so you aren’t exposed to bugs, rain, etc.
They can sleep up to 2-3 people, but I have difficulty imagining how you don’t all roll to the middle. I cannot say I have personally experienced a suspended tent.
I have a picture in my head (seen in movies) of the good guys getting snared in a trap and hanging from a tree with their arms and legs all strewn about. However, I’m sure this is not the case.
Sleeping off the cold, wet, bumpy ground
Lightweight and easy to pack
It can be pricey if good quality with cover
Need big trees
It May take a while to find the right place to pitch
Set-up can be involved
Rooftop tents are for adventure seekers wanting to pitch their tent on the top of their vehicle. This can actually be done on most vehicles that have roof bars on top.
Most of them unfold or pop up, and a ladder is used to get in and out. This might be a challenge if you had a few campfire cocktails. I might be this camper.
I love the idea that you don’t need to look for the perfect footprint for your tent. Just park your vehicle and pitch it right there. I would imagine an elevated tent having fewer spiders crawl into your tent. Also, can you picture a bear climbing up the ladder to snack on you?
Rooftop tents do not do well in windy conditions and could be dangerous for small children (or some adults, let’s be honest). They also tend to be quite pricey.
Pitch anywhere your vehicle parks
Sleeping off the ground
Fairly easy set-up
Not stable in windy conditions
Need to climb a ladder
More expensive than other models
Tents for Glamping and Parties
Thank you, HGTV and Pinterest, for giving us another obsession. Men all over the world are rolling their eyes. Welcome to glamping, where you can decorate and accessorize in a stylish canvas tent.
Ok, you can camp in these tents too, but most of the time, they are being used for glamping, overnight sleepovers at a party, or used as a festive place to gather.
Bell tents and Teepee tents do very well in all types of weather, though, because of their canvas material. In addition, they often come with a hole in the roof for a stovepipe, making them warm and cozy on cold nights.
Canvas material is hefty and bulky, but these tents would be a fantastic place for overnight guests once set up.
Bell tents are made of heavy-duty canvas material. The canvas is held up by a large, tall pole in the center with several guy lines pulling the tent into the bell shape.
These tents are very heavy and bulky to put up, and you need strength to pull the guy lines enough to support the tent.
There is a ton of headroom in these tents; the center pole is very tall. They come in various sizes and can sleep 2-8 people, depending on the size.
Bell tents do not come with a groundsheet, so keep that in mind if you are actually camping. A groundsheet will get in the way if you use your tent for a party or glamping.
The front panels open up like elegant curtains and invite you in. The short walls on many bell tents can be rolled up or zipped off, creating tons of airflow and a canopy feel.
Canvas is an expensive material, so bell tents can be pricey. However, if taken care of, canvas tents can last for years and be passed down to family members.
Perfect for glamping or parties
Quality canvas is breathable
Comes with a hole for the stove pipe
Heavy and bulky
Difficult to set up
Teepee tents are similar to bell tents in that they have a single tall pole in the center supporting the tent. They also have guy lines that pull the tent into a cone shape.
They differ from bell tents in that teepee tents only have sloping walls straight from the pole to the ground. There are no short walls that you can roll up or zip off for ventilation. Instead, there is ventilation at the top, which is helpful.
They have good headroom due to the high center pole but are limited to living space because of the steeply sloping walls.
Teepee tents typically do not have a groundsheet, so consider this if used for camping.
Most teepee tents are canvas, but a few modern ones are lightweight polyester or nylon material and are more suited for camping. These types are lightweight and easy to put up.
Only one pole to set-up
Great peak height
It can be decorated cute for parties
Heavy and bulky if a canvas
Limited living space
Whew! That’s a lot of tents. Hopefully, our post was helpful with narrowing down the different types of tents and what would work for you.
With so many options, you surely will find the perfect tent for your camping adventures. If not, that’s ok too, there are plenty of hotels with flush toilets and running water.
Either way, just get out, go have fun with friends and family, and remember to camp s’more worry less.